Volume 95, Issue 61

Tuesday, January 22, 2002
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Universal appeal among the chaos of Mogadishu

Rare (Ad)dictions cleverly unified

Outside the Box

Doggone, Disney's films are carbon copy

Doggone, Disney's films are carbon copy

Cookie-cutter film makes par

Snow Dogs

Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr., James Coburn, Joanna Bacalso

Directed By: Brian Levant

Two 1/2 stars (out of five)

By Megan O'Toole
Gazette Staff

With a target audience consisting primarily of young children, Snow Dogs is a typical Disney release in many respects: good-natured, upbeat and neatly-packaged.

Despite having to work with a generally unconvincing plot, Cuba Gooding Jr. delivers a charming lead performance as Ted, a dentist-turned-dogsled racer.

Set in the Arctic climate of Alaska, the light-hearted film deals with the deeper issues of identity, trust and determination. In search of his true destiny, Ted must overcome his fear of dogs and learn to "mush" with the best of them.

Ted's canine team consists of eight Siberian huskies, which are skillfully directed by Brian Levant. There are also many close-ups of the dogs looking adorable, which will definitely appeal to any children in the audience.

Joanna Bacalso lights up the screen as the beautiful Barb and encourages Ted to discover his "mountain legs." Eventually, the unlikely couple predictably fall in love – another Disney trademark.

James Coburn falls into a classic stereotype as "Thunder Jack," an old grump with a heart of gold. Upon his initial reunion with his estranged son Ted, Jack is unreceptive, but, by the end of the film, his tough exterior melts like ice on a hot summer's day.

Despite the Academy Award-winning stars, Snow Dogs will likely not be among the contenders for Best Picture of the Year.

The plot is slickly oversimplified, omitting most of the gritty details of Ted's struggle to adapt to the Alaskan climate after spending his entire life in Miami, Florida.

While amusing in places, the physical comedy in the film proves to be excessive. Ted sustains so many injuries throughout the movie (slipping down bluffs, falling through icebergs into Arctic waters, being dragged by dogsleds) that he should have ended up dead – or, at the very least, a hypothermic quadriplegic.

R&B sensation Sisqo makes his second big-screen appearance as Rupert, Ted's co-worker and best friend. Though his acting is decent, Sisqo's throwaway role as a shallow jokester seems inappropriate for the soulful Grammy nominee.

As a result of the movie's slapstick nature, the scenes dealing with real emotion seem out of place and inappropriate. When Gooding and Coburn attempt to portray a breakthrough in father/son communication – complete with brimming eyes and touching words – it seems out of character for both actors as Ted and Jack are otherwise essentially one-dimensional.

Snow Dogs is pleasant enough, concluding in classic Disney style with all loose ends tied up – including the rather hasty marriage of Barb and Ted. Clearly, the film was intended to appease young viewers and their parents, as the formulaic plot prevents it from creating a lasting impression on a more critical audience.

The neat package that Disney manufactures works well for the characters in Snow Dogs, but it would be a more interesting film had there been a rip in the paper somewhere.

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Copyright The Gazette 2001